The Centre has defined rural development as micro-watershed development plus organic farming plus non-conventional energy plus village industries and marketing their products.
This definition is a culmination of nearly two and a half decades of experience in rural development.
Assumption and Biases
There are certain statistics, assumptions and biases. These are:
1. India still lives in villages and despite all the earlier thinking will continue to live in villages for a long, long time to come.
2. The current rate of urbanisation is not sustainable. There is a need for reducing this rate. This can be done by providing essential amenities in rural areas and raising the income levels of rural people, especially that of the landless, marginal and small farmers. This will reduce the need-based emigration to urban areas.
3. Employment generation is better than doles.
4. The country has 1275 million hectares of wastelands. Bringing them under vegetative cover can generate employment, is not very expensive, doesn’t require high technology, no foreign exchange is required, can restore the ecology and increase incomes.
5. The country loses 12,000 million tonnes of top soil annually. This means tremendous loss of nutrition and this reduces the productivity of our soils. The technology to reduce the soil erosion is simple, labour intensive and not very expensive. The benefits are visible in the first year itself.
6. The country gets sunshine almost all the year round and we are using a very, very small fraction of this energy. While some efforts are made to use it to heat water or cook food, and even to produce electricity, the latter is still very expensive and very little is being used. However, the best way to use solar energy is to store it in plants with the help of chlorophyll. Today’s solar energy should be used today only, otherwise it is wasted. If the land is covered with trees, shrubs and grasses, the solar energy would get harvested. The technology to harvest solar energy optimally is known.
7. It is possible to develop this country by developing the countryside because a lot of wealth will be generated and a large number of jobs will be created. In other words, the incomes in the countryside will go up, consequently so will the demand for consumer goods as well as consumer durables, and this will impart a powerful stimulus to our economy.
8. It is better to create exportable surplus to earn foreign exchange than to earn foreign exchange by reducing local consumption and subsidizing exports.
9. Fossil fuels will soon disappear, the nuclear option is hazardous and should be closed forever and, therefore, for energy, we will have to look to the Sun, Wind and Water. Energy plantation, in addition to the efforts to save energy, reduce the need.
10. Producing goods in a decentralized manner has become possible with the advance of technology. With the increasing costs in terms of pollution, destruction of ecology etc., small scale production has not only become viable but also a necessity.
11. Marketing, of course, will be a problem. The markets promotions have to be in urban areas in the beginning, but it is possible to motivate one percent of the population even against all media advertising to prefer village manufactures.
12. The Government budgets quite a lot of money for micro-watershed development and non-conventional energy. Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness and expertise at the level at which this money is to be issued and hence the money remains underutilized.
Based on this thinking the Centre is trying to build a model. What the Centre has as well as what is required is listed below:
It has a technical cell to promote micro-watershed development and to prepare projects and also to oversee their execution. Of course, for a country like this many cells – in thousands – will be needed, including the Konkan Region in which the Centre is active.
The Centre has a unit to grow earthworms and make vermi-compost. It has enough expertise to train people, but it needs a laboratory and facilities to do some research. The Centre also needs a hostel, class rooms, a library, a lot of furniture, etc. for effective training. The same facilities can be used for giving training in micro-watershed development, etc.
The Centre wishes to establish a workshop to fabricate appliances which use non-conventional energy or, which increase the efficiency of conventional fuels. It also needs a technical cell to promote the use of renewable sources of energy and for extension.
Village Industries and Marketing
The Centre has a number of village industries and is considering expanding them and also setting up new ones. It has learnt how to market its products as well as the products of other village industries. However, there are no training facilities.
The Centre needs funds to employ more people to promote micro-watershed development, to buy another set of survey instruments and audio-visual equipment and a couple of vehicles, to build a hostel, class rooms and a library, to set up a workshop to fabricate non-conventional energy appliances, to set up a laboratory to test the compost and to undertake research and a technical cell to promote non-conventional energy, and, of course, to further strengthen its marketing team.
It is estimated that over a crore of rupees will be required for all this.
The scarcity of drinking water, fodder, fuel, light timber, will reduce.
Unemployrnent will reduce, in fact, there will be labour shortage.
Milk availability will go up.
Soil erosion will stop and productivity will go up.
Inequity will reduce.
Need based emigration to urban areas will reduce.
Floods will reduce.
Silting of darns will slow down.
Large dams may not be required, excepting for generating power.
And a sense of community will get built, since without that micro-watershed development is not possible.